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Abstract

Trademarks have been in use for thousands of years, for as long as people have used symbols to designate the ownership or origin of their goods. From ancient merchants marking their pottery, to ranchers branding their cattle, to medieval guild members displaying a common mark, the use of symbols to identify and distinguish oneself and one’s property is a practice that far outdates the laws created to regulate such symbols. The earliest legal recognition of trademarks did not come about until the late sixteenth century; in the United States, federal trademark laws were not passed until the late nineteenth century, despite their common use and long-recognized importance. Currently, federal trademark law is governed by the Lanham Act passed in 1946, which sets out the different types of trademarks recognized and protected by the federal government. While the number of trademark infringement suits has been steadily increasing over the years, one particular type of mark, the collective membership mark, has only recently come to the forefront of trademark law news because of a fierce legal battle between the federal government and a California motorcycle gang.

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